06 June 2008

A Short Conversation

Every once in a while I find myself by chance in a conversation which ends up being quite enlightening. One happened on the last day of school while I stood morning duty – keeping the peace, so to speak. I stepped over to speak to a young man, just to let him know that I was there. A portion of the conversation went as follows (my words in italics):

“Best not stand close to me. I’m a gangster.”
“What does that mean? What is a gangster? What does one do?”
“I strike.”
“You mean, like a snake?”
“Like a match.”

The student's choice of simile hit me like a brick, and as I walked away from the student, I wrote it down. The student’s image of himself striking out is probably far different than mine. His equating his own action with a match instead of a snake may be telling. A snake does not consume itself when it strikes. A match only strikes once, then it is used up. Essentially, it strikes out the first time. The double meaning there is quite appropriate for the young “gangster” class of young men and women coming of age today. They may strike and burn, but the acts themselves are self-consuming. The charred remains are less then functional.

I fully realize that the student did not in any way craft this simile for any specific purpose. I realize as well that I may be reading far too much into this simple conversation. But these ideas are important, and the consequences of what our kids buy into are of paramount importance. If these ideas use them up, they may well never have the chance to amend their ethics, to understand that the gangster lifestyle is essentially a dead end.

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